Will Austin Hendrick trade West Allegheny red for Cincinnati Reds in MLB draft?

Tuesday, June 9, 2020 | 4:33 PM

Hot dogs with Skyline Chili and evenings at Great American Ball Park could be in Austin Hendrick’s future, if draft experts are correct.

The West Allegheny outfielder is projected as a first-round selection in the MLB Draft on Wednesday night, and the majority opinion has him headed to the Cincinnati Reds with pick No. 12. If so, he’d be the highest-drafted player selected directly from the WPIAL since Neil Walker went 11th overall in 2004.

“I’ve looked at the mock drafts,” West A coach Bryan Cornell said, “and if I were a betting man, that’s where I would say he’ll end up.”

The five-round draft starts at 7 p.m.

The Reds are among the teams that have contacted Cornell, and his phone remains busy. He received three calls from teams just since Saturday.

“Some people are trying to dig up last year’s stats, but mainly it’s about what kind of kid he is and how he is as a teammate,” Cornell said. “They’re just final checks to make sure that they’ve done their due diligence.”

There are no senior season stats. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound outfielder saw his senior season canceled in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hendrick hasn’t accepted interview requests in the weeks leading up to the draft. Cornell, who has spoken with Hendrick, said he’s being advised by Scott Boras’ agency.

In January, Hendrick said he was trying avoid the hype.

“I try not to read into all of the mock drafts and stuff,” Hendrick said then. “There’s a lot that can happen. I try not to think about it too much until it happens.”

Hendrick has plans to watch the draft at home with his family.

“He’ll do something afterward, once he finds out where he’s going to go,” Cornell said. “Then they’ll throw a bigger party.”

Mock drafts published by Baseball America, MLB.com and CBS Sports predict the Reds choosing Hendrick at No. 12. Keith Law of the Athletic has Hendrick to the Mets at No. 19.

An NBC Sports mock lists him 15th to the Phillies. The Pittsburgh Pirates pick seventh.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people,” Cornell said. “He’s definitely in the first round. I think he’ll be picked before 17 or 18. But it’s hard to tell. It really is.”

Mike Axisa of CBS Sports predicted Hendrick to the Reds in three consecutive updates of his mock draft.

But Axisa added: “If anyone knows which way the Reds are leaning at this point, let me know. They’ve been all over the map this spring. The connection to Hendrick has been steady, though college pitchers like Oklahoma righty Cade Cavalli and Tennessee lefty Garrett Crochet are legitimate possibilities as well.”

Hendrick is committed to Mississippi State, so he also has that college option available.

The NBC Sports mock noted that “Hendrick is expected to be signed over slot value if he does opt to skip college for the majors.”

This year’s first-round slot values range from $8.4 million for the first overall pick to $2.4 million for pick No. 29. The bonus value assigned to pick No. 12 is $4,366,400.

The most recent WPIAL player to become a first-rounder directly from high school was Plum’s Alex Kirilloff, who went 15th overall in 2016 to the Minnesota Twins.

Cornell counted 15 scouts in West Allegheny’s gym one day this winter when the team gathered for preseason workouts. There were around 30 for the team’s first scrimmage, before the PIAA canceled spring sports.

That cancellation and school closure was doubly painful. West Allegheny expected to contend for a WPIAL baseball title, but Hendrick’s teammates also missed out on sharing in his draft journey.

“That took the excitement out for a lot of people,” Cornell said.

It also removed a reliable stress-reliever from Hendrick’s life.

“That’s probably been pretty grueling on him, not playing baseball for the last two or three months,” Cornell said. “This is something that’s on his mind. It’s weighing on him. He’s still a young kid.

“Everybody who plays baseball dreams about this,” Cornell added, “and he’s finally 24 hours away from it.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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